After a breakout third season with the 49ers, DeForest Buckner already has set expectations for himself even higher.
Buckner recorded a career-high 12 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss and 20 quarterback hits in 2018 while establishing himself as a leader on the defense. The 49ers acquired edge rusher Dee Ford in a trade with the Chiefs and drafted Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to bolster the pass rush.
That has Buckner antsy to get the pads on.
Prior to the six-week break following mandatory minicamp, Buckner spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area about why he couldn’t be more excited about what is to come for the team and himself in the upcoming season.
“I’m very excited,” Buckner said. “I’m the happiest man on the team. The additions that we have, and the guys that we have already in the room, I mean, it’s going to be unbelievable.
“We did a really good job in free agency and in the draft this year. Guys are coming back healthy and that was a big break the past couple of years. We had too many injuries.”
Buckner explained how the added speed on the edge will give an advantage to the interior defensive linemen like himself.
“Having Dee and Nick on the outside, forcing the quarterback to step up for all the guys we have in the interior, it’s going to be amazing for all of it to come to life. I’m just excited for that first preseason game, just to get that little taste."
Buckner’s vision for himself still remains simple: improve.
“Honestly, just to build off of the season I had last year,” Buckner said. “Every year I’m looking to get better. Kris Kocurek, our new d-line coach is helping me with the weaknesses that I have from last year and developing new techniques and new things to my game to improve myself.
“He’s teaching me in the room, and on the field and I’m implementing it at practice, and I see it actually happening, coming to life. I’m excited to move forward, and for the season."
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With 10 wins since the arrival of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, Buckner understands the importance of the team turning their record around. While he has expectations for himself, he has not lost sight of the big picture, and the ultimate goal.
“Winning,” Buckner said. “That’s all I’m looking forward to, just winning. That’s the main thing. It’s a result-driven league and all anybody cares about is winning. That’s what we’re here for and it’s why we compete every day, every Sunday, Monday, Thursday. We’re all competitors and I just want to win this year.
“John and Kyle are doing a great job building the team that they want,” Buckner said. “I’m just excited to see everything come to fruition.”